18, 2011 “This painting is about my culture. That’s my father’s dreaming. This is from my father’s country, that country is called “Unjangola”. That is north of Utopia, not too far but really desert country” Margaret Loy Pula 2009
Growing up in the small outstations at Utopia and living there for some time, Margaret has been exposed to art for most her life. She is the daughter of well-known artist Kathleen Petyarre and the mother of Abie Loy Kemarre, also a rising star from the Utopia region. Both Abie and Margaret were taught to paint by Kathleen. Her aunties are the Petyarre sisters, all of whom are established artists.
Margaret paints her father’s dreaming, and the stories that she depicts include country, bush food and ceremonial designs. Her main story is the ‘Anatye’ or bush potato dreaming, which is portrayed using a series of fine, almost microscopic, dots. The bush potato vine grows after the rains, and depending on the amount of rain the potatoes can grow quite large. The women go out to collect the potato, an important source of bush food for the Anmatyerre people, using crowbars to dig up the ground. Once collected they are cooked in the hot coals of the fire.
Judging an art prize is never an easy task, since inevitably the finalists have been vetted prior to hanging on the wall. So, it’s the best of the best that a judge must choose from. The finalists in this year’s Sunshine Coast Art Prize were immensely talented, demonstrating a wide range of styles, subject matter, and all with a rigour of purpose that was palpable. I commend all those who participated.
For me, however, there was one stand-out in particular: Margaret Loy Pula, whose extraordinary painting, Bush Potato, from 2010, mesmerized me. The near-abstract painting is built up using an infinitude of fine, microscopic dots, which all coalesce in to one ‘eye’ at the centre of the composition. Margaret explains that she mainly depicts her father’s dreams, which this is surely an example of. But subject matter aside, it is her almost obsessive mark-making and the magnificent surface texture in particular that produces the full visual impact, and that ultimately ‘wowed me’. Amazing.
For the ‘highly commended’ prize, I chose Fiona White, whose stylised portrait painting was hard to resist. The large, bold work featured an amorous black couple, depicted in an almost cartoon-like fashion, set before a brightly coloured suburban-scape. A fabulous image.
18 July 2011